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Cease your meddling!

The Matrix: the original 1999 version

Above: the original 1999 version; below: the re-graded 2004 version

The Matrix: the re-graded 2004 version

George Lucas isn’t the only filmmaker to indulge in revisionism. That’s right, the Wachowski brothers are at is as well. No, the alterations that have been made to The Matrix aren’t quite on the same level as the “Greedo shoots first” debacle - no footage has actually been reshot, and the special effects are unchanged - but they’re significant nonetheless. When the film was re-released on DVD in 2004, the entire film was digitally graded to bring its look into line with the two rubbish sequels, and, now that I have the ability to take screen captures of HD DVDs, I can show you just how extreme the difference is.

The Matrix: the original 1999 version

Above: the original 1999 version; below: the re-graded 2004 version

The Matrix: the re-graded 2004 version

I’m curious as to how people feel about this. On the one hand, I do think that the re-graded version is aesthetically preferable. Creating a digital intermediate allows filmmakers much more control over the final look of their movie than traditional lab work, and we can therefore presumably assume that the look of the new version of The Matrix is closer to representing what the Wachowskis originally intended than what was initially released. On the other hand, it’s hard not to see this as being a “because we can” situation. The central concept - that the Matrix had a green tint, whereas the “real world” had a blue tint - was conveyed subtly in the original version, but, in the re-graded version, has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The shadow detail is also seriously hampered by the manner in which the contrast has been pumped up.

The Matrix: the original 1999 version

Above: the original 1999 version; below: the re-graded 2004 version

The Matrix: the re-graded 2004 version

Edge enhancement

Oh, and the HD DVD of The Matrix is indeed edge enhanced. It’s not as bad as on some titles - it’s no Crank or An American Werewolf in London, for example - but it’s there all right. I noticed it within less than a minute of the film starting, and yet many people continue to tell me that I’m imagining things, or that there is a problem with my equipment, or whatever other outlandish excuse they can come up with. That’s the great thing about being able to do screen captures: I can now provided visual evidence! Now who’s crazy, guys?

 
Posted: Saturday, July 14, 2007 at 6:25 PM | Comments: 6
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology

 
Comments

1.

Keanu looks like a cardboard cut-out in that last pic. Not sure if that's because of the edge enhancement or his own inimitable "acting" style, har har.

The regrading was overdone a little, especially in terms of contrast, but I think it is a case of restoring the directors' original intentions (as opposed to retconning the sequels' colour scheme onto the first movie). I'm sure the original DVD was rather duller than the Wachowskis intended. The bathroom and subway fights looked overly brown and earthy, quite out of kilter with the film's theme. And look at the rain in your second grab - it looks so much more like the computer code in the 2004 version. Surely deliberate.

Posted by: Echidna, July 15, 2007 12:11 AM

2.

Personally I always loved the 'brown' atmosphere of the old version and I was sad to see it go. The 'green' version just tries too hard to be cool and with the whole 'green and black' thing was also seen on the terminals etc.

Plus it's another reminder of the sequels. With the different look the original version was at least set apart from them a bit, not so much any more.

Posted by: Pyoko, July 15, 2007 1:03 AM

3.

Original is how I always saw the film (my first dozen times). I wish both versions were available

Posted by: aw, July 15, 2007 3:22 AM

4.

Is the EE part of the re-grading? I remember the original DVD having a notably soft sheen.

I'm inclined towards the old version. I'm a bit wary of EVERYTHING having this hi-tech glossy, punchy color scheme. It's impactful, but very tiring if used continuously, like music that's constantly loud with no dynamics.

Speaking of which, is there a cinematic equivalent of The Loudness War? Modern CDs are being mastered with tonnes of compression and and the volume cranked as high as the CD format intrinsically allows. Supposedly this is to make the music "stand out," but the result is harsh sound as flat as a pancake, ultimately just really boring to listen to.

I suppose it's the audio equivalent of crushing the blacks and exploding the whites, taken to an extreme degree.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

Posted by: Kit, July 15, 2007 11:39 AM

5.

Either that, or I would say that edge enhancement could also be the video equivalent. With audio they increase the volume and crush the dynamics to make it appear louder (i.e. better according to most people), on DVDs especially they add EE to make it appear sharper (i.e. better), but in both cases all it really does is ruin the work with a harsh sound or look.

Posted by: Pyoko, July 15, 2007 12:04 PM

6.

The whole idea of THE MATRIX was stolen so why support or even talk about that crap anyway??

Posted by: ARCVILE, July 17, 2007 4:11 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

https://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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